Supporting farmers to preserve the environment by offering alternatives to the harmful disposal practices of burning, burying and stockpiling of waste is vital for the future of New Zealand. Government measures announced by the Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage are a shot in the arm for rural recycling.
Ground-breaking new rules will mean all manufacturers of agrichemicals and farm plastics sold in New Zealand must be part of a recycling scheme. These products will become priority products under the Waste Minimisation Act, putting the onus on manufacturers to take responsibility for any plastic packaging and left over product. Other products include tyres, e-waste and refrigerants.
The Minister says that “regulated product stewardship helps put the responsibility for waste and what happens to products at the end of their useful life on manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature”.
Agrecovery, which runs such a scheme voluntarily, commends the government for making the recycling of farm plastics a priority. The programme’s General Manager, Simon Andrew says it sends a strong message to those who refuse to take responsibility for their products and signals the government’s commitment to making harmful disposal practices a thing of the past. “It’s a bold move and one that will benefit our land and environment for decades to come.”
For Agrecovery, clearing waste from farms and finding new ways of making end of life packaging useful again is the “very centre of our existence”.
“Our absolute focus is to support farmers and growers to recycle and reuse the materials to make useful new products.” Andrew says that the not-for-profit organisation works hard to ensure that there are streamlined processes for container and drum recycling, and sustainable agrichemical treatment and disposal – and the results are paying off.
“We’ve seen huge uptakes in recycling in the last few years. We are now collecting close to half of all the agrichemical containers sold and are making them into useful new products right here in New Zealand. Collecting the other half is our top priority.
“We have the systems in place to do it, we have the backing of industry to do it, and we look forward to making it happen.
“Keeping a system that works for our rural communities, being responsive to their needs and removing barriers to recycling is vital. This responsiveness and efficiency plays a large part in our rising recycling rates.
“We have overwhelming support from the manufacturers who fund our programmes and we are eager to welcome all brands to participate”. Removing free-riders will level the playing field and allow all products to be recycled – eliminating the confusion for farmers and growers over which products can be recycled for free. “This will be a huge bonus for our rural communities,” says Andrew.
“Having some products which can be recycled and others that can’t has long been a hindrance on the farmers who want to do the right thing.”
The Agrecovery Foundation started in 2006, setting its sights to clear plastic agrichemical containers and drums from farms and orchards around the country. The agrichemical industry chose to fund the programme so its waste could be made into useful products right here in New Zealand. The programme also sustainably disposes of unwanted agrichemicals.
Over 70 manufacturers of crop protection products, veterinary medicines, dairy hygiene and liquid fertiliser products support Agrecovery through a voluntary levy.
Agrecovery has high ambitions to clear more rural waste by partnering with industry groups, manufacturers, product stewardship schemes, government, councils and farmers to make it easier for rural communities to recycle.
Agrecovery and its stakeholders will work quickly to align the scheme with the government’s requirements. It must put farmer and grower needs at its core and be implemented by a competitively neutral industry body that ensures that the interests of the entire supply chain are represented.
“We operate for industry and are run by industry so are ideally placed to rise to the challenge. This is not to line our pockets, but to try and meet the needs of our primary industries as well as the environment,” says Andrew.
Boosting solutions for recycling softer farm plastics like silage films, fertiliser bags and smaller seed, feed, and fertiliser bags, which are harder to recycle, are also welcome. “This will involve a commitment to scale up local infrastructure to deal with the plastic and stimulate demand for the recycled product,” adds Andrew.